Atlas Blue eyes 20 aircraft fleet

The new charter airline is set to rapidly grow its fleet.

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By  Neil Denslow Published  August 31, 2004

Royal Air Maroc (RAM) subsidiary, Atlas Blue has begun operating charter flights between Morocco and Europe. The new airline has ambitious plans, including launching low cost services and growing its fleet to at least 20 aircraft over the next few years. The launch of Atlas Blue is an important part of the Moroccan government’s Vision 2010 project, which aims to drive up the annual number of tourists from its current level of around 2.5 million to 10 million per year by 2010. The project includes the construction of a number of hotels and tourist resorts in the North African country along with the launch of the new airline to fly in European tourists. “One part of the solution for [Vision 2010] is to create a national carrier specifically designed for tourist air transport,” explained Zouhir El Aoufir, executive board chairman, Atlas Blue. “The model was that this airline would be 100% owned by Royal Air Maroc, and it would focus on the tourism market,” he added. The airline’s maiden flight was made on 28th July flying a charter service for French tour operator, Etapes Nouvelles, between Lyon and Marrakech. It has also signed deals with other French tour operators, including FRAM and Club Med, as well as companies in Germany, the UK and Italy. “We have also had some contact with Ireland and Eastern European countries, like Estonia,” added El Aoufir. “We will develop new routes in conjunction with the tourism office in Morocco,” he continued. “We are working together to bring Morocco to its goal of 10 million tourists by 2010.” However, although it is part of the 95% state-owned Royal Air Maroc Group, Atlas Blue will not be receiving subsidies. “We are a purely commercial service, but we will work with the government to develop new markets,” explained El Aoufir. Atlas Blue began operations with a Boeing 737-400 from the Royal Air Maroc fleet, which was converted into a single-class configuration and re-painted by RAM’s inhouse maintenance shop. Five other RAM 737s will join the Atlas Blue fleet by the end of October, after which the airline intends to buy up to 14 more 180 seater aircraft. “Around the beginning of 2005, we will have a seventh aircraft. That will be a new one, not from Royal Air Maroc,” said El Aoufir. “Our fleet plan after that, which has to be confirmed by the beginning of 2005 by the board, is to receive two additional aircraft acquisitions per year until 2012,” he added.

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